Next year promises to arrive with a full slate of computer networking challenges that will require the rapid deployment of cutting-edge test solutions by equipment manufacturers, service providers and enterprises, according to the top networking industry trends for 2012 predicted by Ixia.

Among other things, the global provider of converged IP network test technologies observed that the virtualized servers in next-generation data centers will generate more traffic than 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) connections can handle. And the rising prevalence of distributed denial of service attacks means that enterprises will need to deploy unified threat management devices.

Cloud providers will need to verify that their infrastructures are ready to offer high availability for all customers -- and at different quality-of-service levels for various tiers of service. Other network testing challenges highlighted by Ixia include the ongoing wireless transition to 4G LTE as well as the need to ensure the coexistence of IPv6 and IPv4 Internet address blocks within the enterprise space.

"The competitive pressure placed on network equipment manufacturers (NEMs), service providers, and enterprises to satisfy the ever-changing, ever-increasing requirements of end-users drives new network technologies and deployments," said Ixia CEO Atul Bhatnagar.

Peaceful Coexistence

Last February, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority allocated the last freely available block of IPv4 addresses. Unfortunately, the new IPv6 address blocks are not backward compatible with IPv4.

"The vast majority of the world's Internet content is addressable via IPv4," said Michael Howard, a principal analyst at Infonetics Research. "It's clear that the IPv4-to-IPv6 transition will be a long but very manageable process."

Still, the peaceful coexistence of IPv6 and IPv4 on the Internet means that IPv4 hosts and routers also must be able to run without modification and still be able to communicate with both IPv4 and IPv6 nodes. So in advance of rolling out IPv6 on their corporate networks in the second half of 2012, IT managers will need to conduct private and public tests to ensure this evolution is transparent to all networks users, Ixia said.

What's more, Ixia noted that only a few data center switch vendors currently support 40Gbps ports, though most major NEMs will soon be delivering higher speeds in their top-of-rack and end-of-row switches -- with 100Gbps ports coming on new offerings for links between core switches.

To ensure that the new hardware meets the scalability and quality of service requirements of customers, Ixia said NEMs will need to test the delivery of traffic and applications delivery at 40/100Gbps speeds over various distances.

Testing The Cloud

Beginning next year, cloud providers will start to compete on more than price by highlighting the reliability, security and responsiveness of their public and private cloud environments, Ixia predicted. To back up their claims, however, they will need to conduct tests to verify the overall compute, storage, and network scalability of their cloud infrastructure.

To expose bottlenecks and optimize their own cloud infrastructures, enterprises also will need to test all aspects of the cloud-based environments on which their data centers will increasingly depend.

"There is massive innovation coming from cloud providers for every part of the stack, everything from application development and testing to technology solutions such as listening platforms," said Forrester Research Vice President Ted Schadler, in a recent blog.

Ixia expects data center managers to be on the lookout for ways to validate that their cloud providers are meeting their service level agreements as well as shortening their application deployment schedules.

Additionally, Ixia expects that the consumers of cloud services will find value in test solutions that can advise them about the requisite level of compute resources they need to deliver to specific areas to ensure that enterprise workers, clients and partners receive an adequate quality of experience.